Memorial Poppies

The poppy is a symbol of remembrance, worn to honor men and women who died while serving our country. Each year around Memorial Day, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers make and distribute millions of paper poppies for donations that are used to help hospitalized and disabled veterans and their families.

Why the poppy? The tradition dates back to World War I. Poppies grew wild across the battlefields and burial grounds of Belgium and northern France. The sight inspired a Canadian soldier, Lt. Col. John McCrae, to write the poem, “In Flander’s Field.” The first verse is a description of poppies blowing “between the crosses, row on row” in a hastily dug battlefield cemetery. The red color symboizes blood spilled in war.

Inspired by the poem, Moina Michael (1869-1944), an American teacher and YMCA volunteer, began a campaign in 1918 to sell silk poppies as a symbol of remembrance and to raise funds to help disabled veterans. As a result, the poppy was adopted as the official memorial flower by the American Legion Auxiliary in 1921. Moina Michael is remembered as the “Poppy Lady.”

There are collectors of WWI memorabilia, including variations of the fundraising poppy like the two pictured here.(The one on the left is from Canada, where "Remembrance Day" is observed on November 12 this year; the poppy on the right is the one currently distributed by the American Legion and Auxiliary in the U.S.A.) Others collectors look for porcelains decorated with poppies.

Find prices of other World War I and II memorabilia in the FREE online price guide at and Kovels’ Antique & Collectibles Price Guide 2012, available in our online shop and your local bookstore.